Mystery ComRAT cyber-surveillance tool still going strong, researchers confirm

Son of Agent.btz that stalked US military in 2008

Security experts seem no nearer to confirming the nation state behind the long-running Uroburos (aka 'Snake' or 'Turla') cyberweapon (Russia) but according to German security firm G Data its developers are still hard at work.

The rootkit's existence was firmed up last March when BAE Systems, G Data and Kaspersky published separate research suggesting it had been used to compromise large enterprises and government networks for years, including its predecessor, Agent.BTZ, successfully used against the US military in 2008.

G Data has continued researching the software, with a new blog note offering a fuller development and version history for what is clearly a major intelligence-gathering and compromise platform of which Uroburos was only one component.

The earliest detection of 46 samples looked at was version 1.5 in June 2007 right up to a new RAT, ComRAT, discovered in 2014. BAE Systems believes this platform goes back even further, to 2005, which would make it the oldest nation state malware currently known about (Stuxnet probably didn't get going until 2006).

Until last year, nobody noticed it, or if they did, the dots that would have revealed the scale of this platform weren't joined up.

G Data's detective work doesn't add much to this sum of all knowledge, other than to confirm that the malware's lower detection rates in 2011 coincided with a significant change in design that marked the point where Agent.btz disappeared and ComRAT became the new direction.

The more recent version also abandoned USB sticks as an infection target probably, G Data said, in response to Microsoft's 2011 disabling of the Windows AutoRun function.

"As a result of the analysis, we now have data on seven years of development of malware that was used by one group for targeted attacks on extremely sensitive targets such as the US Pentagon in 2008, the Belgian Foreign Ministry in 2014 and the Finnish Foreign Ministry," said G Data SecurityLabs head, Ralf Benzmller.

The world now knows about the platform but that doesn't seem to have put its developers off one bit.

"Taking everything into consideration, G DATA SecurityLabs experts are sure that the group behind Uroburos/Agent.BTZ/ComRAT/Linux tool/ will remain an active player in the malware and APT field. The newest revelations made and connections drawn let us believe that there is even more to come."

It is most likely that this program was developed in Russia, which would fit with subsequent reports that the country has advanced cyberweapon and surveillance capabilities, including through its APT28 group of hackers.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags BTsecurityBAE Systems

More about APTKasperskyLinuxMicrosoft

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John E Dunn

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts